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Like humans, dogs can face some challenges as they age. However, with careful alterations and changes to their diet, these challenges can be alleviated or even negated.
As our dogs age, they lose muscle mass. Therefore, an essential element in a senior dog’s diet is protein to keep their muscles as healthy as possible for as long as possible
With this in mind, this guide will explore everything you need to know about senior dogs and the role protein plays in their diet.
Before we jump straight into this article, you should keep in mind that canine nutrition can be incredibly complex. Therefore, if you have any doubts, consider speaking to your vet.
When your dog ages, feeding them a diet that can accommodate these changes is important. One of the most essential nutrients for senior dogs is protein. This is usually because as a dog ages, they become less active and therefore lose muscle.
As such, feeding your canine companion more protein can help maintain their strength for longer.
Good examples of this include beef, turkey, and venison. There are also high-protein treats on the market to offer your dog a protein boost.
Make sure you’re offering your dog premium quality sources of protein, as these can affect the digestibility of the nutrient and, therefore, the benefits your dog is getting from it.
Since dogs are omnivorous, meat (protein) takes up a large percentage of their diet, alongside fruits and vegetables.
Therefore, dogs have evolved to rely on different amounts of protein during the different stages of their lives.
“Woof woof, I thought too much protein was bad for dogs.”
Well, this is actually a myth, pooch.
“Fine by me!”
Some people believe that too much protein in a senior dog’s diet can overtax their kidneys due to the high phosphorus content.
Too much protein is thought to produce too much waste in your blood, and the kidneys must work extra hard to remove it all.
However, the study that generated this myth was performed on rats, not dogs. In fact, the opposite is now thought to be true.
A review of this evidence published in Topics in Companion Animal Medicine states:
“Protein restriction for healthy older dogs is not only unnecessary, it can be detrimental.”
Therefore, while too much protein can be dangerous for rats, you don’t have to worry about this with your dogs.
Senior dogs require more protein when compared to an adult dogs. This is because one of the main functions of protein is that it helps to build your dog’s body and maintain muscle tissue.
As your dog ages, their muscle mass depletes, so they need more protein to slow down the process.
With the loss of muscle tissues; comes the malfunction of their immune system – making them more susceptible to illnesses and diseases.
Likewise, they lose their physical strength, too – directly affecting mobility and energy levels.
Therefore, when it comes to your senior pup’s diet, you should increase their protein intake, helping them maintain their strength for longer.
In fact, experts recommend that protein should make up at least 25% of your senior dog’s daily calorie intake.
Plus, what kind of dog doesn’t love protein – isn’t that right, Pooch?
You can add protein to your dog’s diet in many ways. The most obvious is to give them higher protein foods.
Many dry and wet food options on the market are specifically for high-protein diets.
If you want to add high-protein treats to their diet, offer beef strips, chicken bites, lamb, turkey, duck, or venison.
You can also pick up high-protein dog treats from your local pet store or online.
Generally speaking, the protein quality is determined by its amino acid profile and digestibility – although that is whether or not it contains the required amount of amino acids.
Typically, animal-sourced proteins have the essential amino acids your dog requires (supplied in the benefiting ratios for your dog, too) instead of plant-source proteins.
When it comes to the digestibility of protein, this is determined by a range of different factors.
These factors include how many filler ingredients the food includes, the quality of the meat source, your dog’s age and weight, and more.
However, the bottom line is that pet food companies will usually conduct digestibility reports on their finished products.
Here, they want to know how digestible their produce is, and they should provide customers with this information, too.
As dogs get older, it is normal for them to eat less. However, it is important they maintain a healthy appetite.
If you notice your dog eating less than normal or not eating at all, this could indicate an underlying health issue. For instance, diabetes, kidney disease, dental problems, or cancer can all affect your dog’s appetite.
Therefore, if you notice a shift, you should take your canine companion to the vet.
Once any serious problems have been ruled out, you can take a look at these different factors to try to make food look more appealing to senior dogs. Here are some examples.
Add some water to make it softer for your dog to chew and more appetising. For instance, try using a low-sodium chicken broth.
Feed your dog small meals throughout the day instead of one of two big meals.
Some senior dogs might lose their appetite, but it’s still important to ensure they eat enough.
Older dogs may find it difficult to reach food bowls on the floor. Therefore, consider placing the dish somewhere elevated, where they don’t have to bend their neck.
Make your dog’s food more palatable. Due to a reduced sense of taste, senior dogs can be particularly fussy. For instance, one good source of protein is cooked chicken.
Medication can affect your dog’s appetite. If you think this is the reason, discuss alternative medications with your veterinarian.
If you notice your dog suffering from joint pain, discuss medication options with your vet. When your dog is in pain, it can be hard for them to want to eat.
You should always consult your veterinarian when it comes to feeding your senior dog snacks and treats since, most of the time; these are just as unhealthy as “junk food”.
Water-based vegetables, including fresh or frozen broccoli, green beans, lettuce, and cauliflower, make a great guilt-free treat for your senior dog.
High-protein vegetables, including spinach, sweet corn, sweet potatoes, broccoli, mushrooms, and kale, are great treats for senior dogs to increase their protein intake.
Evie Randall is a talented writer at KnowMyDog.com who specializes in creating content that provides senior dog owners with the knowledge they need to take care of their furry friends. Her passion for dogs and her exceptional writing skills have enabled her to create engaging and informative articles that cover a wide range of topics related to senior dog care, from the importance of regular veterinary checkups to tips on managing age-related health issues.
Through her writing, Evie has helped to build a community of dog owners who rely on KnowMyDog.com for guidance and support in caring for their aging pets. Her dedication to providing high-quality content that is both informative and easy to understand has earned her a loyal following among dog owners, who appreciate her expertise and her ability to make complex topics accessible. Overall, Evie’s work at KnowMyDog.com has made a significant impact in the pet industry, and her commitment to helping senior dogs and their owners is sure to continue benefiting countless pets and their human companions for years to come.